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Are people visiting your online store, but sales are not coming in?

Even if your ecommerce website is up and running, and you’re reaching the right audience, it’s important that you know how to merchandise your products effectively.

In this article, we’ll explain exactly what online merchandising means and how it relates to what you do in brick-and-mortar stores. We’ll also share effective ecommerce merchandising strategies that will help boost your store’s growth and success.

Let’s start by defining ecommerce merchandising.

Table Of Contents

What is ecommerce merchandising?

Ecommerce merchandising is the strategic placement of your products in an online shop. It enables online stores to mirror the retail space of their brick-and-mortar counterparts (that is, if they have one).

Often, it involves creating a customer journey path online shoppers can follow on your site as they browse products that include complementary products for selected items. Online retail stores and physical stores differ in terms of layout, branding, and product grouping.

Example of an online store – Livrarias Curitiba.

Store layout

In a brick-and-mortar store, merchandisers use their senses to determine where to put products. Online, they have to rely mainly on data and cannot decide which product will sell best simply by looking at it. Online retailers study sales data for similar product catalogs across different sites to determine which products should be placed in specific spots online.

Branding

Traditional merchandising involves brands working with retail stores. In ecommerce businesses, merchandising provides a channel through which brands can sell directly to customers. The difference between these two is that while they both involve customer experience, online merchandising sales tend to be much more one-to-one because of data analytics and targeting.

Product grouping

Traditional merchandisers deal with products in many variations and arrange multiple products on shelves or tables so customers can see them together. Ecommerce merchandising is focused on giving the most prominent places in each category to the products you want to push the most. Ecommerce sites typically use product descriptions, images, and other details to help shoppers find what they’re looking for without comparing options side by side.

Lush clearly highlights their best selling products within a given product category.
Lush clearly highlights their best-selling products within a given product category.

Elements of ecommerce merchandising

There are five elements of ecommerce merchandising designed to maximize the efficiency of your ecommerce business, as follows:

Homepage merchandising

Through homepage merchandising, provide customers with relevant product information and incentives to purchase on your homepage. Your homepage should have plenty of calls to action (CTAs) and details of promotional offers. Include mission statements, and brand-building messaging that help distinguish yourself from competitors online on your homepage to help drive sales. Also, have an option for users to sign up to increase your customer subscriptions.

United by blue's homepage features their main CTA directing visitors to their new arrivals.
United by blue’s homepage features their main CTA directing visitors to their new arrivals.

Look-book and collection pages

If you’re a clothing store, lookbooks help your customers to visualize what the products you’re selling look like and provide them with a basis of inspiration for their own outfits of the day. Having separate pages of editorials and curated collections indicates to your customers which pieces of clothing go well together and could potentially upsell your products. It’s also a fun and creative way to promote your latest product launch.

United by blue's journal features products that fit together.
United by blue’s journal features products that fit together.

Online marketing

When you’re promoting a product or a set of products, one of the best ways to get them noticed is to tie the promotion into an online marketing campaign. You can send the promotion in a message composed in a specific way that showcases a specific product, collection, or cluster. The best strategy here is to personalize your marketing efforts for your target audience or for a segment of your target audience that you think will gain the most value from your promotion.

Newsletter from united by blue.
Newsletter from united by blue features their new arrivals.

Read more: How to Promote a New Product Using Email Marketing

Product pages

If you have ecommerce businesses, you should use product pages to describe each piece of your merchandise. Also, use product pages as landing pages. Include product descriptions, images, videos, and effective CTAs on your product pages for an optimized customer experience.

United by blue's product page.
United by blue’s product page.

Read more: 10 Easy Ways to Create Product Pages that Convert

Category-based merchandising

This approach to online shopping involves clustering and ranking products that fit in one category together. The best part about category-based merchandising is that it offers flexibility in presenting your products to customers. 

But the best category-based merchandising strategy is to promote particular products in each category. In category-based merchandising, product image placement, the order of products, ratings, and product comparisons, if available, help highlight the products you want to gain attention for the best online shopping experiences.

United by blue 'New Arrivals' category.
United by blue ‘New Arrivals’ category.

Why is ecommerce merchandising important?

Customer expectations, click-through rates (CTR), and the overall shopping experience impact your conversion rates and your ability to generate leads. Disappoint in any of these areas, and over time you’ll start to see the negative effects. High bounce rates are more likely, and potential customers will make purchase decisions without moving within your site, decreasing your conversion rates. 

With ecommerce merchandising, you can better retain customers and improve your marketing goals by keeping bounce rates low and providing a great customer experience

Understanding how customers interact with your website shop pages and what they expect from your ecommerce site allows you to create customer experiences that convert into sales. Consistent navigation across your ecommerce sites also makes it easier for customers to move between web pages. A well-thought-out merchandising strategy ensures your business meets its marketing goals and helps get more loyal customers with frequent purchasing behavior and high average order value.

16 tips to perfect your ecommerce merchandising strategy

The goal of ecommerce merchandising is to create a seamless online shopping experience. Here are sixteen tips for an impeccable ecommerce merchandising strategy:

1. Know your customer and learn what they want and need

Have a good sense of your customer demographics before thinking about merchandising. Do your market research, and understand what people want and need from your product or service.

Example of an email asking customers to leave an opinion about their online store.

Reach out to customers and ask them questions about their buying habits. Watch what they do on your website and how they search for products in your categories. Also, look at their reviews to see what they like or dislike about your products. If possible, talk to customers directly through focus groups or surveys. Surveys will help you better understand your customer base and ensure that you offer them exactly what they want when shopping online.

2. Have an eye-catching homepage

The homepage is a shopper’s first impression of your brand and entire store and is one of your primary opportunities to keep users on your site, so it must be attractive. However, that doesn’t mean you should stuff it with elements, keep it minimal and stick to your brand identity.

Gymshark's eye-catching homepage.
Gymshark’s eye-catching homepage with a strong headline.

If the color palette you’ve chosen is pastel then make sure you highlight that in the different elements but don’t assault the senses. With visual merchandising, you can use image content on your homepage that conveys quality, value, and authenticity. 

3. Have effective product pages

Product pages are unique landing pages that contain tailored and relevant product information. For shoppers, products must also have high-definition photos with accurate descriptions, such as sizing information and features. 

Product videos that provide an overview of features also increase sales by adding another level of credibility and authenticity to your brand experience. Whereas your product reviews show shoppers what others think about a product before buying it, increasing trust and confidence in your brand.

Example of an ecommerce product page featuring social proof.
Example of an ecommerce product page featuring social proof. Source: Exploding Kittens

Read more: 10 Easy Ways to Create Product Pages that Convert

4. Use artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps you get relevant suggestions, find gaps in your catalog, understand bounce rates, and more. AI algorithms predict which products users will likely click on and purchase, helping boost your sales. 

While using AI algorithms, start with relevant suggestions based on past buying behaviors, product reviews, and other types of products your clients might find interesting. Additionally, you can use AI technology that predicts when users are about to abandon an online shopping cart. Send personalized messages to leaving shoppers, encouraging them to finish their purchases. This way, shoppers have a greater chance of converting into buyers who return for repeat business.

Example of an exit intent popup displaying a discount code.
Example of an exit intent popup template displaying a discount code. Source: GetResponse Popups and Forms.

Read more: Cart Abandonment Email Examples and Tips

5. Mobile vs. desktop

The most popular way for users to shop online is on their tablets and smartphones. That said, optimizing your site for mobile and desktop viewing to suit all device users is advisable if you aim for a high sales volume in a short time. Mobile users can be just as engaged with your site as those browsing on desktops, but they tend to have higher abandonment rates due to smaller screens that do not display your content optimally. 

Make sure all product pages are optimized to display well across all screen sizes by creating different templates or microsites explicitly designed for mobile or tablet use. Adjust titles, product images, and descriptions to ensure your relevant products are easy to find and view on mobile devices.

Share of mobile traffic between Q1 2015 and Q2 2022. Source: Statista.
Share of mobile traffic between Q1 2015 and Q2 2022. Source: Statista.

6. Group any related products

Assign groups of products based on keywords, product descriptions, brands, or other relevant factors. Grouping like items together improves your site’s usability and makes it easy for shoppers to find what they are seeking. Grouping items will also improve your search engine optimization. When a shopper searches for a keyword related to one of your grouped products, that item is more likely to show up in their results.

For example, if you sell shoes and clothing, you might group them by color. If someone searches for red shoes, all red shoes will appear in their results.

Products grouped by color. Source: Shoe Box
Products grouped by color. Source: Shoe Box

You can further optimize your ecommerce merchandising strategy by including links within each group of products so customers can easily navigate from one product to another. Grouping keeps customers engaged with your website and allows them to browse multiple options without going back and forth between pages.

7. Increase personalization of product recommendations

Get more detailed with your product descriptions to make more relevant, personalized recommendations, increasing your conversion rates. Use automated recommendations to personalize customer experiences, such as offering personalized recommendations based on past orders or visits.

For example, suggest complementary accessories like wallets or handbags if someone searches for a purse. Or you can cross-sell related cycling accessories when someone purchases a bike.

Product recommendations generated by AI in an ecommerce store.
Product recommendations generated by AI in an ecommerce store.

Read more: How to Boost Your Ecommerce Sales With Product AI Recommendations

8. Make clever use of visuals

Use clever product shots and memorable visuals to help your products stand out from competitors. Once you know what works for your business, incorporate acquired ideas into every image you put on display in the ecommerce store. 

Consider setting up photo shoots with props or people who reflect your target audience. Such concepts are visually appealing and remind people what kind of products you have available for purchase and make people more likely to buy. Remember to add text overlays in your visuals. 

For example, a hand model is a great way to catch attention if you sell jewelry (see the images below). If you sell food and drinks, try arranging objects in creative ways that create compelling compositions.

Product page showing the product itself. Source: Katmeleon
Product page showing the product itself. Source: Katmeleon
Product page showing the product being used. Source: Katmeleon
Product page showing the product being used. Source: Katmeleon

9. Collect and analyze customer data

Keep an eye on customer analytics for better service provision. Take note of the products searched frequently and which ones customers often add to their shopping carts. Review your search engine optimization strategy and ensure it effectively provides relevant products at each stage of the customer’s journey online, starting with the search bar until they finalize their purchases by adding a product to the cart. 

Consider how customers respond to your emails, banners, and ads. Ensure you have enough information about who is coming to your site. Look into your analytics package and investigate the patterns of users who convert into paying customers. Analyzing customer data keeps customers satisfied, enhancing repeat business and referrals to new clients.

10. Make sure your website is easy to navigate

Navigation difficulty induces client frustration, leading them to leave your site without making a purchase. If you have many products and categories, it can prove challenging for your customers to navigate through all that information. To optimize your ecommerce site, consider visually organizing your website using different types of graphics

Be sure to add informative details in the customizable part of the category page, that way you can showcase products you want to promote.

The homepage should contain clear calls to action that direct customers towards what you want them to do next. Create visual boundaries between product categories with colorful banners or easy navigation bars. These features will help guide customers through your store and boost sales. 

Take for example, this homepage by flair.hr. It is very clear that they want you to either book a demo with them or provide your email address so they can send you a product video. The navigation bar is clear and simple, with the call to action standing out in a different color.

Intuitive site navigation featuring bread crumbs and minimalistic nav bar from Danner.
Intuitive site navigation featuring bread crumbs and minimalistic nav bar from Danner.

11. Use social proof or user-generated content

As with most things, people want proof before buying, primarily if they have not heard of your brand or you lack a track record for stellar customer service. Encourage your customers to leave reviews, testimonials, and stats about your product posted on your site. And give them the reasons to make those reviews positive.

Getting lots of traffic on your site without spending much money on digital marketing shows interest in your offer. One of the best ways to get some traffic to your website is to set up an affiliate program or partner with influencers. Showing that users interact with your site through ratings or shares helps prove that they see value in what you offer, and it will likely result in them making a purchase.

Exploding Kittens product page highlighting customer reviews.
Exploding Kittens product page highlighting customer reviews.
Exploding Kittens product page featuring customer reviews.
Exploding Kittens product page featuring customer reviews.

12. Optimize for SEO

Search engine optimization is about working with platforms like Google to ensure your site appears in natural search results. Optimize your website elements and content to be relevant to various terms customers might use when searching for products.

Image listing off-page SEO factors.
Source: Marketsplash

Factors like having relevant suggestions and product reviews affect your site’s ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). These factors play a role in influencing how many people come across your website Integrate content from other sources like Reddit to improve your search results and boost your search engine ranking. Incorporating content from such sources known for having accurate information about niche searches increases your site’s traffic.

13. Think out of the box

To boost sales online, try new ideas that are creative and haven’t yet been done by every ecommerce store out there. 

Make sure you always review what upgrades your ecommerce server has available and implement those that not only benefit the customers but also do not harm your website performance.

If your server can handle AJAX technology, then consider using an autocomplete search bar, allowing users to quickly type in a few keywords and then browse through possible results without entering a query. However, be wary of this, if you don’t have the server capacity, then your website performance will drop – particularly on mobile phones.

Autocomplete search bar on Farfetch's store's website improving the user experience.
Autocomplete search bar on Farfetch’s store’s website improving the user experience.

Autocomplete search bars help increase conversion rates because users do not have to think about precisely what they want before searching. Instead, they can get immediate results based on their initial queries.

You can also encourage social sharing by giving customers options to tweet or post your products on social media platforms. When possible, include user-generated content from others who have purchased your items so shoppers can read honest opinions from other people just like them.

14. Add value to your products with relevant content

As shoppers become more adept at using search engines and more familiar with products on various retailer sites, you should leverage relevant content, specifically product reviews, guides, webinars, social media reels and any other content that showcases your products in the best way possible. 

Relevant content helps ensure that your products pop up when customers search for related items. For example, suppose you sell running shoes. In that case, you could write short product descriptions and include pictures of actual runners wearing your footwear.  

Or, if you’re a SaaS ecommerce company, you can provide product demonstrations in the form of premade videos. Take this product page by Animation Desk, for example. They have a product tutorial video showing how to best use their product, and then they have other animation videos people have made while using it.

Product page featuring videos made by the app's users. Source: Animation Desk.
Product page featuring videos made by the app’s users. Source: Animation Desk.

Add more value by having customer reviews and relevant content that reflects what features customers like about your products or the value your products bring, builds trust with new shoppers. You will increase sales for those particular products and encourage new customers to purchase additional products from your site.

15. Make communication with your customers personal and meaningful

Personalize your message to customers and learn what they need. When it comes to increasing your revenue, making your relationship with customers one of authenticity and transparency is essential. Showcase a few products that are trending or add some content that your audience can enjoy reading as a way of keeping them coming back. That said, ensure you are not bogging down customers by bombarding them with too frequent emails.

One way to find out what’s on your customer’s mind is using a chatbot or live chat feature. Search your ecommerce service for a widget or plugin that lets a customer start a chat with your bot right from your website.

Ecommerce chat example.

16. Smartly strategize sales and discounts

You do not want your products languishing on shelves in your store. To encourage customers to act now, strategically offer sales and discounts and free shipping on certain types of purchases.

71% of customers follow brands for the purpose of getting promo codes.

Plan each sale strategically, considering your profit margins and long-term business strategy. If you decide to run an offer, ensure your inventory is large enough so customers will not have trouble finding what they want. Also, ensure your website is optimized for search engines so people searching for discounts or free shipping will find your site. Sales and discounts attract new shoppers to your business.

Wrapping up

As ecommerce has evolved and continues to evolve, merchandising methods have become increasingly sophisticated. Luckily with the list of best practices we have compiled, you can easily keep up. To get the most out of your ecommerce merchandising strategy, you need to balance your needs with your customers’.

Make sure that each product you’re selling is appealing in its own right and that you’re showcasing all of its best features, both to consumers and search engines, to ensure an excellent customer experience.



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